Document Actions

ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews-request@acm.org

Volume 5, Issue 6, March 24, 2009




Computer Science Programs Make a Comeback in Enrollment
New York Times, March 16

In 2008, for the first time in six years, enrollment in computer science programs in the U.S. posted an increase, according to an annual survey from the Computing Research Association. The boost in CS enrollment is significant, according to computer scientists and industry executives, who in the past have pointed to declining numbers of science and engineering students as a troubling sign of the nation’s weakening ability to compete in the global economy. The number of majors and pre-majors in U.S. computer science programs was up 6.2% from 2007. As student perceptions of the discipline change, insiders are optimistic about increased attention paid to computer science education.

Interest in computer science appears to have turned the corner, as student perceptions continue to change. Moreover, with the implosion of the financial services industry, the nation’s college students will likely turn away from future careers in fields like investment banking and finance in favor of careers in computer science and engineering. The Taulbee Survey, with data tables covering different time periods, also found that the number of new undergraduate majors in computer science increased 9.5% and that the rate of decline in new bachelor’s degrees improved to 10%, from 20% in the previous report. Total Ph.D. production grew to 1,877 for the period July 2007 to June 2008, a 5.7% increase over the previous period.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Hiring for IT Jobs Holds Up
Tech Careers (via Information Week), March 5

Despite the economic uncertainty in other industries, the tech sector continues to represent a relatively safe haven, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index of 1,400 CIOs. The survey results suggest that 8% of CIOs plan to hire IT personnel in the next quarter, while only 6% anticipate cutting staff positions. Still, companies are becoming more cautious about hiring in today's economic environment, as they match budgets that must support critical IT projects with their short-term staffing needs. The Robert Half Technology study provides an overview of hiring trends by position, function and region.

Yet, even as IT hiring holds up, the mix of IT jobs in demand has shifted slightly since 2006. Desktop support is the technical skill most in demand today, while Windows administration expertise and network administration skills were the most wanted positions in 2006. In its latest survey, Robert Half found that network administration specialists -- typically of WANs and LANs -- were also in high demand, followed closely by Windows administration experts. The chief growth areas were for specialists in help desk/technical support and networking. Approximately 15% of CIOs cited those areas, while 10% named Internet/intranet development as areas experiencing the most growth.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Tech Companies Pledge to Deal With Shortage of Women Workers
PC World, March 3

By 2010, there will be an estimated shortfall of 300,000 qualified engineers working in Europe's IT sector. At the same time, fewer than one in five computer scientists in Europe are female. In an effort to reverse both of these trends, the European Commission had made a concerted effort over the past few years to attract more female professionals to the industry. Five prominent IT companies, including Microsoft, vowed to do more to make tech jobs attractive to women and to make better use of their potential in the IT sector.

By signing a Code of Best Practices, these five companies are taking a first step towards making high-tech jobs attractive for girls and getting more women into the European ICT sector. Companies that commit to this Code will enrich the ICT sector by making it more female-friendly. The companies are Alcatel-Lucent, IMEC, Orange-France, Microsoft and Motorola, with others expected to follow suit. The code aims to attract school-age girls and female university students to the high-tech sector and to retain women already employed in it.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Contract Work Fuels Rise in Tech Job Postings
CNET, February 12

Growth in the number of IT contractor positions is helping stabilize the number of overall tech job postings. The number of tech jobs posted on jobs site Dice.com rose 3.1% in February, its first month-over-month increase since late last summer. Tech job listings rose to 57,337 as of February 2, up from 55,609 in January. However, helping to drive that modest increase was a 7.3% gain in the number of contractor positions, which climbed to 23,955 listings as of February 2, from 22,333 a month earlier, according to the Dice.com report.

In uncertain times, companies are looking for flexibility in their payrolls to continue with critical projects, and that usually means an increase in demand for contractors. For example, in February, contractor positions accounted for 41.8% of all job postings on Dice.com. That percentage for contractor job postings could eventually reach 50% by the end of the year. There was a similar trend after the Internet bubble burst in early 2000, when the number tech jobs overall shrank but the slice of contractor positions soared to roughly half of all job postings on Dice by mid-2003. In general, contractor jobs serve as a leading indicator of the overall labor market, both during economic upturns and downturns.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IT Skills Shortage a Chance for Unemployed Workers
Computerworld, March 12

The IT skills shortage may present a number of opportunities to unemployed tech workers. At a time when large numbers of qualified IT workers are having a difficult time finding a job, organizations like the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) are helping connect displaced workers with the companies that need IT help immediately. According to Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, skills training and certification are two ways for workers to re-enter the workforce. In an interview with CIO.com, Thibodeaux weighs in on the job opportunities available in IT and tackles misconceptions about IT careers.

How can companies continue to say that they can't find highly-skilled, quality workers when there are so many people out of work right now in IT? In some cases, the shortage may be geographic -- it may be that companies that are looking for people can't find people in their area. It may also be that the jobs that are available aren't at the right salary or in the right field for the people who are looking. There are a lot of jobs out there for skilled people, but there are more people looking than there are jobs. It will take those people a while to find a job, especially if they need to move, but they will eventually be reabsorbed by the market, just as it happened after the dot-com bust.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Bootstrapping Web Workers Get a Roadmap at SXSW 2009
Web Worker Daily, March 19

At this year’s SXSW event, a session called “Bootstrap Your Startup” provided valuable insight for Web workers who are thinking about starting a new Internet company. The focus was on finding new sources of funding for start-up companies in their early stages. In contrast to “cookie cutter” businesses that require little creativity or innovation and “funding-driven” businesses that focus on repaying investors, bootstrapped businesses typically allow more patience, creativity and passion. With that in mind, entrepreneurs need to understand each step of the developmental journey of a start-up company.

The bootstrapped model allows start-up founders to have maximum flexibility and creativity while seeking out the business model that will best suit the growing company. In contrast to the VC model, there is no longer the primary concern of returning the investment to financial backers as soon as possible. Bootstrapping your company allows the business model to “show up as you go along,” and may become the true extension of the expression and passions of the founder. Money, critical of course for every business, is needed to keep bootstrapped businesses afloat, but the advantage of the bootstrapped model is that overhead is often lower and there’s not a “ticking clock” to meet the demands of anxious investors.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


IT Skills Crucial to Any Career, Students Say
CIO.com (via Network World), March 12

A majority of college students agree that IT skills are important to nearly any career path, and 80% of them expect that they will have to adapt to and learn new technologies upon entering the workforce. More than 50% are seeking to improve their technology skills before they graduate, with technology being the top skill students want to enhance, followed by writing and marketing talents. The survey results from the IBM Academic Initiative show that students understand they need the ability to leverage technology for their employers across many different career fields.

College students are increasingly realizing they can benefit in specific industries such as healthcare or energy if they are tech-savvy. Many companies today want employees with a broad knowledge base that can be applied across the business, but also a deep understanding of their specific field, such as engineering. Such demands in the workforce partly drive universities to offer interdisciplinary courses among engineering, computer science and business schools, for instance. Studying IT and technology in a broader sense is the right approach since it helps students understand how technology is applied to various businesses to help streamline operations.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Staying Afloat in Today’s Crowded Talent Pool
Wall Street Journal, March 19

Bob Damon, president of North America for executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, explains how senior IT professionals can find new job opportunities amidst a crowded employment market. As Damon explains, it is up to IT professionals to take responsibility for their own career advancement and explore new options to differentiate themselves from their peers. Damon suggests that IT professionals remain as flexible as possible about how they use their skills and experience. In some cases, this may mean downplaying technical achievements in favor of business experience. They should also consider positions where they can out-perform their peers and exceed expectations, even if it means a pay decrease or less prestigious job title.

Even for the most talented candidates, potential employers are looking beyond core qualifications to creativity, flexibility and the ability to fit into a company’s culture. Establishing yourself as a best-in-class executive, capable of easily adapting to and thriving during fluctuating economic cycles, will set you apart and enable you to land new opportunities. Flexibility means being open to interim positions or consulting projects. These will allow you to draw an income, keep your skills fresh and position yourself for prime roles once regular hiring levels return. So-called independent workers now comprise more than 30% of the American work force, according to some estimates. With many companies unable to hire full-time employees, they are turning to highly seasoned project or temporary professional workers.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Five Recession Survival Skills
Computerworld, March 1

As a result of the weakening economy, senior-level IT professionals are spending increasingly more time examining the granular details of project costs and motivating staff members, and less time on technology. Anecdotal evidence suggests that IT managers need to focus as much on their leadership and fiscal skills as on their IT skills. In fact, the economy is shaking up CIOs' skill sets and lowering the premium on some traditionally valued traits while putting others in the spotlight. The article takes a closer look at five skills that are vital to those leading IT right now.

The most important recession survival skill is being able to help your organization reduce costs. By helping people understand how IT can result in business efficiencies, both senior IT professionals and junior staffers can shine. Usually, this requires combining specialized IT skills with expertise in a specific business area. Another important skill is being able to get noticed by your superiors. This might mean bringing awareness of a new technology to the organization, such as open-source packages that offer new ways to lower development and deployment costs. Or, it might mean finding creative ways to come in under budget while still delivering the expected high-quality services and products.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Pride and Prejudice: The Vasa
ACM Queue, April 2009

Responding to a question submitted by a California computer science professor, ACM member George V. Neville-Neil (aka “Kode Vicious”) weighs in on the types of curriculum choices that could help students become better engineers and programmers. According to Kode Vicious, the answer is not more liberal arts courses that help them change the way they think about their relationship to the world, and in particular to technology. A better idea might be requiring aspiring engineers to read practical case studies that hint at the complexities of good engineering design. Instead of reading Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” they should be reading about the Vasa.

One of the best examples of a practical tale, says Kode Vicious, is the story of the Vasa in 17th century Sweden. This is a practical story that directly relates to undergraduate students within engineering and technology disciplines. In many ways, the Vasa is a classic engineering failure story. Built between 1626 and 1628 for King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, the Vasa was a new design of a ship for the Swedish naval fleet. However, due to mishaps in project management, QA testing and design, the ships were fated for imminent disaster. As Kode Vicious points out, nothing has changed since 1628: People still fail to communicate, leading to failures of disastrous proportions. Egos get in the way, and mysterious supernatural forces are blamed for human failings.


Click Here to View Full Article
to the top